Office 2007 RTM

Office 2007 has been released to manufacturing.  Anyone with with a volume license agreement and software assurance will soon be entitled to and be able to download the product.  It’s expected the product will be available in retail outlets in January.
Exchange 2007 (now considered an Office server product) will be released to RTM soon.  Windows Vista is expected to RTM very soon.  There was a rumour it would be released yesterday.  Two serious last minute bugs had been found but are thought to be resolved.
Product launches are kicking off next month.  Larger Irish Microsoft customers are already receiving invites to a party that is being held in Dublin next month.

Brightstor 11.5 Disk Staging Option

I’ve been trying to sort out backups in my client’s site over the last while.  Part of the process has been to update Arcserve 2000 (7.0) server installations and agents up to Brightstor 11.5 SP2.  We’ve had serious problems with the time it can take to run a full backup that starts on Saturday afternoon.  For example, this last weekend’s backup finished after I arrived in this morning.  We’ve also got the horrible issue of having to call in tapes to recover anything for a user … which is all too common.

The client had previously ordered a HP MSA 1500 and one of the guys attached it to the main Brightstor server last week.  Today I installed the Disk Staging Option for Brightstor 11.5.  I started mucking around to get to know it.  There was zero documentation on the CA website to be found and the help file was less than helpful.

I quickly figured things out:

  • You can create devices which are pretty much just folders where backups are stored on disk.  I created one for full backups and one for differentials.
  • I created a disk device group for full backups and again, one for differentials.
  • I enabled staging on each of the disk device groups. 
  • I also made sure to increase the number of streams on the two disk device groups.  Having X streams means that a Brightstor server can backup X agents at once.  This is how to gain performance gains over tape backup.  We’d noticed that agent-disk was no faster than agent-tape and we found no bottlenecks other than maybe the agent or agent machine itself.
  • I enabled staging in both the full and differential backup jobs.
  • I configured each job to use 10 streams, i.e. 10 servers will backup simultaneously to disk.
  • I configured a policy in each of the jobs.  A copy (migration) of data from disk to tape would commence 1 minute after the backup.  Full backup data on disk will be automatically purged when it is 4 weeks old (the client runs a 4 week cycle plus monthly archives).  Differential data is purged when it is 1 week old.

I tested this on two servers and streaming really made a difference.  I could backup two servers in the same time it took to backup one.  Having the data stream to tape afterwards took no time.  In fact, disk-tape ran 10 times faster (LTO3) than agent-disk!

The first differential backup with disk staging will run tonight.  I’m also running a perfmon job to capture statistics on the Brightstor server to see if 10 streams is too much or if maybe we can increase that without affecting server performance or introducing server-agent timeouts.  We’re hoping that with 10 streams that we can get backup times to 20% of what they were.

What did I think of Disk Staging Option?  I am no fan of CA (I’ve way too much experience with their "enterprise management" products and a constant need to call support and patch systems).  I was pleasantly surprised to see how easy it was to configure.  It also appears to offer some serious performance gains.  However, it does appear to be very inefficient with disk.  Each volume (or agent, e.g. SQL) creates a new backup file on the Brightstor server’s disk.  This isn’t appended intelligently on the next backup.  Instead, another file is just created.  This does not compare well with Commvault’s usage of their "synthetic full backup" in Galaxy Backup.  But, it is simple to set up and it appears to offer some serious reductions in backup times.

VMware Backup Tested Under Fire

I previoulsy blogged a bit about how I am backing up my VMware network at home.  Today I came home to find my physical host was acting up.  The WiFi NIC had "disappeared" and the machine would not shut down cleanly.  Only a hard reset worked.  I made sure to pause my VM’s before hitting the button.  I reseated the WiFi card and that resolved that problem.

I powered up the host and started launching the VM’s after reattaching their storage.  Two of the VM’s fired right up but the web server complained about corruption.  Sure enough, it though the machine had no disks and only 32MB of RAM.  Good luck with running a web server with that!  I recovered the web server from a backup that automatically runs every Sunday morning.  I opened the machine in VMware Server and awoke it from it’s suspended state.  It was running perfectly.  All that was remaining was to resynchronise the updated content that I had added on Sunday night.

Service Pack 2 for Windows 2003/2003 R2/XP x64

I’ve just written a whitepaper on the features and deployment of Serivce Pack 2 for Windows 2003, Windows 2003 R2 and Windows XP x64.

This document will discuss the features of Windows 2003 Service Pack 2. On the face of it, there
are few changes made to the feature set of Windows 2003 by this service pack. It does appear to
hold to the promise made by Microsoft about making radical changes to the operating system in
service pack releases. There are some changes behind the scenes. But one big change that users
of RIS will notice is that their Remote Installation Services (RIS) deployment will be replaced by
something new called Windows Deployment Services. WDS has been introduced to facilitate the
deployment of Windows Vista. And something else is different too … this Service Pack 2 for
Windows Server 2003 is also intended to be the first service pack for Windows XP x64.

I’ll go over the deploying the service pack and the changes made by it at a high level. I was
hoping to go into greater detail on WDS but the document just got bigger and bigger before I got
there. I’ll save WDS for another document.

Note: This document is based on the beta release of Service Pack 2 that is available from I in no way condone the use of beta releases on production or valued
network resources. All of my testing has been done using VMware’s virtualisation products.

The document continues …

Microsoft – Novell Partnership

This is one of those times where if you’d told me this 5 years ago, I’d have laughed until my ribs broke.

In case you missed it, Microsoft and Novell have announced a strategic partnership to promote and support each others products. 

How it all came about, we may never know.  But I do have a suspicion.  A while back, Microsoft announced that they had found Linux distributions had infringed on Microsoft’s Intellectual Property (IP) rights.  This didn’t surprise me, especially after hearing Mark Russinovich’s presentation on how Linux compares with Windows.  Mark goes on to describe how the Linux developers constantly added new features to compare with advantages that Mark was point out that Windows had.  Microsoft said they were investigating on how to reconcile this.  Options included nailing the authors of the code (usually someone living in their parent’s basement – just kidding!) or suing enterprises who were using the offending products.

A major part of the announcement from this partnership is that Microsoft will not pursue anyone who is using Novell’s SUSE Linux product range.  Out of this, Microsoft will receive royalties from Novell on license sales.  Novell don’t make too much from licensing so this won’t be an issue for them.  They aim to make money from support and services contracts.  This agreement also appears to include Novell subsidiaries such as a product called Mono, a Linux clone of .NET.  It was also stated that Microsoft will not pursue authors of open source code that infringes on their IP rights.  If you read between the lines this would mean that CIO’s better start adding some $’s to their budget.

On a side note, Microsoft is extremely unlikely to send lawyers in to their "big 500" clients, i.e. the people who drive the design and sales of Microsoft’s products.  It would be even less unlikely they would pursue the smaller fish.  However, this is just a gut feeling and not a legal opinion.

So that’s the IP stuff out of the way.  What does the rest of the agreement include?

  • Both companies will work on web services interoperability.  This sounds like Microsoft will work with Novell on their Mono product, the aforementioned .NET clone.
  • They will work together on server management.  This could include Operations Manager 2007 management packs for SUSE, WS mangement, or maybe some ZENworks interoperability.
  • Mangement of Virtual Machines.  Maybe these are VM additions for SUSE on Virtual Server, the "Longhorn" hypervisor or Virtual PC 2007.  It could include the Microsoft/Xen partnership.  It may even include Virtual Machine Manager that is currently in beta.
  • OpenOffice file format (OpenXML) compatibility with Office 2007.  This was already something that some governments were trying to get in Office 2007.  Microsoft will aim to have seamless compatibility between Office 2007 and OpenOffice.
  • Microsoft will issue 70,000 * 1 year maintenance agreeements for SUSE Linux.

What’s the big picture?  Microsoft had already been working on Linux interoperability.  OM 2007 was already going to have WS support and 3rd parties already provide Linux agents and management packs.  Companies like Quest already provide SMS clients for Linux.  Microsoft already had a relationship with XEN for a virtualisation solution for both Linux and Windows.  However, Microsoft is now openly supporting SUSE Linux. 

This alliance a visible acceptance that however good Microsoft thinks Windows is (and I think it is the best network server product out there) Linux has a justified place on an enterprise network.  Microsoft will expand it’s management to include SUSE.  But don’t think this is a generosity thing.  Microsoft will get paid for the usage of their IP if you deploy SUSE.  So even if you think you’re screwing Bill out of yet another ivory back scratcher when you go open source with SUSE, you’ll be wrong.

What’s there for the CIO signing the checks?  They still have the choice of going open source.  They will get support and interoperability.  They will be dealing with a mature and well accepted company in Novell.  And they will also feel like they are on a safer legal ground if they purchase SUSE products instead of some other Linux product.

More OM 2007 RC1 Stuff

Connect sent out a mail today saying that the Operations Manager 2007 team released RC1 versions of the Web Console and a reporting service for Audit Collection Service containing 18 reports.  Anyone who must do security auditing (IFSRA, SOX, pharms, etc) will seriously want to take a look at ACS.  I wrote a document or whitepaper about it on my last job.

Operations Manager 2007 RC1

Microsoft OM 2007 (the successor to MOM 2005) RC1 is now available on the Connect website. Improvements over the beta include:

  • Improved install process
  • Major usability improvements made to the UI
  • Updated Management Packs and new Active Directory MP
  • Ability to Gateway
  • Certificate manage non-trusted devices
  • Support for more deployment topologies including multiple management servers
  • Improved stability

You will need to uninstall the beta release to install RC1.  As promised, RC1 can be upgraded to RC2 and then to RTM.